£53,000 - £55,000 Price range
The Maserati Levante SUV could be the most important model the firm has ever built – seen as crucial if the car builder is to hit its target for producing 75,000 new cars a year.
No one can argue that the sporty-SUV formula doesn’t work – walk through any city centre and you’ll literally be falling over Porsche Cayennes and Range Rover Sports, and the Jaguar F-Pace‘s set to become a familiar face, too – but can it work for Maserati?
When you read the specifications for the Levante it appears to be (on paper at least) the most driver-focused SUV currently on sale. It’s a technical tour de force – coming complete with self-levelling height adjustable air springs, electronic dampers, torque vectoring and a rear limited-slip differential.
The construction is also clever. Maserati has built much of the car from aluminium and strengthened it with a magnesium beam that runs across the shell – resulting in it being 20 per cent stiffer than the Ghibli sports saloon. That should help sharpen the handling and make it tough enough for proper off-roading.
Overseas you’ll have the option to fit a choice of two petrol V6 engines – with 345 or 424hp – but in the UK a 271hp diesel is your only option. It seems like a sensible one, though, giving performance that’s just about quick enough to be termed ‘sporty’ without the huge running costs that would have UK buyers running for the hills.
Read our Maserati Levante sizes and dimensions guide too find out if this large SUV is the right size for you.
While the Levante doesn’t offer the gadget-laden interiors you’ll get in an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90, its insides breath character in a way that more conventional SUVs can’t match. Pillar-less doors give it a sporty side profile, and inside you get a three-spoke steering wheel, lots of leather and the traditional Maserati clock sitting proud on the centre of the dashboard. Reviewers even say the infotainment system is better than the ones fitted to more conventional SUVs.
Although we have yet to sample it for ourselves, reviewers say the Luxury Pack (£TBA), which combines leather with Zegna silk, is an extravagance worth sampling.
Maserati Levante passenger space
Its SUV body style puts the Levante on the shopping list of customers who were hitherto out of reach to Maserati – the family car buyer. Space up front is said to be plentiful, while in the back limited foot room means it’s not ideal for transporting three rear-seat passengers – but this still promises to be the most practical car Maserati has ever built, though not one that will be offered with seven seats.
Maserati Levante boot space
Even with its sporty sweeping roofline, the Levante boasts a boot capacity of 580 litres, which should be enough for most families – comparing well to the Range Rover Sport (489 litres), but not so brilliantly when considered against the Porsche Cayenne (618 litres) or capacious Jaguar F-Pace (650 litres).
Clever technology does not guarantee a car will be great to drive, but in the Levante it seems to have done the trick and Maserati claims its SUV will resist understeer – the loss of front end grip that makes a car plough through a corner – better than any of its rivals.
To do it the Levante constantly monitors its centre of gravity and within a couple of turns of the steering wheel can sense its payload (people and luggage) and set the suspension accordingly. The four-wheel-drive system is also designed to deliver maximum smiles, with 90 per cent of torque being sent to the rear wheels for maximum cornering grip in bends.
The result is a car that feels like a large hot hatch to drive – not a 2,205kg SUV – helped by hydraulic power steering that is quick and accurate, plus an eight-speed automatic gearbox that is fast to change and rev matches for smooth down shifts.
Off-road the Levante also acquits itself well. Of the five suspension settings you can choose from, two are specifically for off-roading – the most extreme of which raises the ride by 40mm to save the car’s underside from costly scrapes. Hill descent is also included and the sophisticated four-wheel-drive system completes the Maserati’s mud-plugging repertoire.
If there was one complaint it’s that the excellent chassis never feels properly tested by the diesel engine – something that should be solved by the V8 petrol model that’s tipped to join the range later.
With no petrol engines coming to the UK (the most potent dispatches 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds) the Maserati’s performance is quick, but not startling. The 271hp 3.0-litre diesel gets from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds – quicker than basic diesel versions of the Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne, but slower than a 3.0-litre Jaguar F-Pace diesel.
Not that it really matters, the Levante has plenty of pace to perform quick overtakes and the 443lb ft of torque (available from just 2,000rpm) means that it doesn’t have to be worked hard to get the best from it.
Rein in your enthusiasm and the Levante should be able to return fuel economy of 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 189g/km translating into affordable road tax of £270.
More performance is rumoured to be arriving later in the model’s life in the form of the 523hp twin-turbocharged V8 that’s fitted to the Quattroporte. That would give the Levante the performance to worry a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but also the scary running costs that would likely make it a niche choice.
In time the Levante could prove to be key to a resurgent Maserati and on the strength of the first few reviews it has every right to be. By all accounts it’s the best-driving SUV currently on sale – something we would have struggled to believe prior to launch – ensuring that Maserati’s DNA is noticeable enough to keep purists happy.
Meanwhile, for people new to the brand, its practical interior and relatively low running costs are bound to appeal to buyers looking for an alternative to the established competition.